I live in the idyllic setting of northern New England, where crystal clear bodies of water and serpentine rivers rest beneath snow-capped mountain peaks and dense forests.  This setting, of course, brings all kinds of tourists to the area, and the particular region in which I reside enjoys a certain year-round tourist appeal – skiing in the winter; hiking, boating, etc. in the spring and summer; leaf peeping in the fall.  But the one tourist-driven activity that seems to dominate all others is shopping – shop ’til you freakin’ drop!  In neighboring New Hampshire, where there is no sales tax, villages swell with the sprawl of outlet stores, strip malls, five and dimes, T-shirt emporiums, and all other assortment of purveyors of “stuff”.

While driving through one such town in New Hampshire recently, I was struck by the existence of a store called Mattress Giant.  I find it astounding that there is enough of a mattress market that there are stores all over this country – including in rural New Hampshire – that are open for hours each day, selling mattresses. Who are these people who are going out in droves each day and buying mattresses?  Of all things!  Are people really wearing out their old mattresses quickly enough and in enough numbers that would warrant an entire chain of stores called MATTRESS GIANT?

Is it just me, or this is just plain weird?

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Black Friday indeed.

November 29, 2008

Poor Jdimytai Damour.  Who’s that, you ask?  Oh, just some lowly temp worker at a Long Island Wal-Mart who was trampled to death by a crowd of 2,000 early morning Black Friday shoppers this weekend.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  How in the hell does something like this happen?

I could see it if there were some real emergency.  2,000 people trying to exit a burning building all at once.  Chaos.  People fighting for the very lives.  But a bunch of over-caffeinated, turkey-stuffed, credit-card wielding suburbanites trying to buy a Wii or a 72 inch plasma TV?  That’s not an emergency, folks – that’s just bullshit materialism.

I know it’s hard to fathom or even believe, and we would have been able to see video captured on a witness’s cellphone on YouTube, but “[t]his video has been removed due to terms of use violation.”  I’ll bet the head honchos at Wally World had a little something to do with that.

These deal-seeking fuckers broke down the glass doors of this Wal-Mart store like baited, caged animals.  The New York Times even reported that, when customers were told of Damour’s death, “people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning’,” after which “they just kept shopping.”  They had been gathering for hours before the opening time of 5:00 a.m., chomping at the bit for bargains on, largely, shit made in China to be given out at what has become a secular, material-centered holiday to people either don’t really want the shit or will exchange the shit for something else equally as frivolous and unnecessary.

Don’t misunderstand my tone too much, however – I don’t mind that Christmas has become less focused on the baby Jesus.  (Just an aside – it’s laughable, actually, that the most devout people I know are also the most decorative, with their giant Christmas trees and wreaths, apparently not minding – or, more probably, largely ignorant of – the very pagan and anti-Christian origins of such “hanging of the greens” customs.)  What I do mind that all of us are in such desperate and insatiable need for stuff that tragic things like this can happen.  There is a reason I don’t celebrate Christmas or any holidays anymore, for that matter.  At the risk of sounding a little like those religious wackos I’m always making fun of, I think we’ve missed the entire point of holidays.  Gift-giving is great when it is sincere.  We shouldn’t need some arbitrary date in December or any other month of the year to remind us to show our love to and share whatever wealth we may have with those who are closest to us.  But our TV ad culture has drummed it into us that we must buy buy buy – at the expense of our dignity and, in this sad case, the very life of one Mr. Damour.